During a panel discussion on climate change and environmental ethics at Columbia Law School, environmentalist Chuck Perry's compelling message of universal interconnectedness and the devastating effect of animal agriculture on the environment was unfortunately overshadowed by his late-70s-style fashion choice: a Levi's brand denim jacket and a pair of identically colored dark-wash jeans. A slightly wrinkled un-tucked beige button-down completed the ensemble.
"He was really getting through to me at first," reported conference attendee Marsha Neil, a graduate student in Columbia's MBA program. "As he was describing the enormous levels of greenhouse gas emissions produced by animal agriculture - more than the entire transportation industry combined! - I started feeling glimmers of true enlightenment. And then I'd get distracted by the way his jean jacket collar was sort of turned up and by his whole slouchy super-casual-liberal-dude look, and I'd lose it all."
Columbia law student Mike Harris recounted a similar experience. "Chuck was such a powerful speaker, fired by passion and consciousness. You just knew he was speaking the Truth, with a capital T."
Harris elaborated, "During his talk, I began understanding on a visceral level how there is no 'other,' we're all one with the universe, and how the exploitation of our fellow earth dwellers and our pillaging of this beautiful planet must stop, now. And then, just when I was on the verge of really getting it, I looked up at him and was suddenly overwhelmed by all that denim. And I thought, who's this joker to be telling me how to live? I mean, who wears a jean jacket these days?"
Perry didn't make any headway whatsoever in boosting the awareness of Hunter College student Kimberly Thomas, who explained that Chuck Perry's unfortunate fashion choice prevented any absorption whatsoever of his message of expanding the circle of compassion to include what's on the dinner plate.
Thomas chuckled as she recalled her first impression of Perry. "My first thought was, no, you are not seriously wearing that! When Beyonce went vegan for three weeks I thought there might be something to it. But this guy was just too much."
Later, confronted with the news that his jean jacket had apparently impaired his credibility with his audience members, Perry was characteristically philosophical.
"I'm not surprised," he shrugged. "That's capitalism for you."